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Namibian Premiere of Classic “Toxi” and “Yellow Fever”

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InfoEntrance: 30,- N$

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To round of the screening series “African Perspectives” for 2014, AfricAvenir will present the Namibian audience with two cinema diamonds.  One of Germany’s post-war founding films “Toxi” (1952) by Robert A. Stemmle, will be shown in Namibia for the first time on Saturday, 29 November 2014, 19h00, at the Goethe Centre Windhoek. As introduction we will present Kenya’s short animation movie “Yellow Fever” (2012), by Ng’endo Mukii.

Yellow Fever (short)
Dir: Ng’endo Mukii, Kenya, 2012, 7min, Original (Swahili/English)

Toxi (main film)
Dir: Robert A. Stemmle, Germany, 1952, 88 min, (German with English subtitles)

Date: Saturday, 29. November 2012, 19.00 h
Venue: Goethe-Centre, Fidel Castro St. 1-4, Windhoek, Namibia
Entrance: 30,- N$

Synopsis Toxi
“Toxi” tells the story of a five-year-old girl who suddenly appears on the doorstep of a well-to-do Hamburg family. The members of the multi-generational, white household react differently to the arrival of Toxi, who is Black, the daughter of an African-American G.I. and a white German woman who has died. As one of the first and most successful films to directly tackle the problem of “race” in post-fascist Germany, Toxi arguably has been instrumental in the (re)construction of the German nation as exclusively white and hit the box offices exactly when the first generation of the so-called “Black Occupation Children” began entering German schools, creating a public awareness of this situation.

It also cemented the misrepresentation of the “self-explanatory” whiteness of German citizenship as a phenomenon discussed firstly in this period. As Afro-German historian, Fatima El Tayeb, argues, Black-German citizenship was legally prescribed as an oxymoron and German citizenship was established as exclusively white as early as 1905-1907 during the German brief but brutal colonizing endeavors in the African continent.

Director Robert A. Stemmle effectively details the prejudices existing in Germany against mixed marriages, as well as against the children produced by these partnerships. In a series of extremely well scripted scenes, various German positions on “race” and racism are discussed with remarkable honesty and candor. Just as young Toxi has worked her way into the hearts of this German family, a resolution of sorts appears: her American father returns, hoping to take Toxi back with him.

Title: Toxi
Year of Release: 1952
Director: Robert A. Stemmle
Screenplay: Robert A. Stemmle, Peter Francke, Maria Osten-Sacken
Cinematographer: Igor Oberberg
Music: Michael Jary
Cast: Toxi (Toxi), Paul Bildt (Grandfather Rose), Johanna Hofer (Grandmother Helene Rose), Ingeborg Körner (Hertha Rose), Carola Höhn (Charlotte Jenrich), Wilfried Seyferth (Theodor Jenrich)
Producer: Fono-Film
Running time: 88 minutes

Press/Academic Reviews:
“Toxi offers a local glimpse into the worldwide crisis in racial formation emerging in the 1950s... still highly relevant!” Angelica Fenner, author of Race under Reconstruction in German Cinema.

“Toxi remains a cornerstone for any historical understanding of “race” and Blackness in post-war Germany.” Tobias Nagl, author of Die unheimliche Maschine: Rasse und Repräsentation im Weimarer Kino.

“This story must be told. We should not allow the lives of these children to be forgotten.” Regina Griffin, director of Brown Babies: The Mischlingskinder Story.

“The film’s significance derives from the specific ways it reformulates, re-tells, and resolves the story of “race” after Hitler for German audiences: by locating it in the body, experiences, and emotions of a charming yet vulnerable black Bavarian child and suggesting that the source of (her) racial difference and place of (her) racial belonging are one and the same: multi-ethnic America.” Heide Fehrenbach (2007). Toxi and the Story of Race after Nazism. Princenton University Press.

“(…) the film, all along, has been advocating racial tolerance, not racial integration. What is more, it suggests that integration would have destructive social and psychological consequences for (white) family and (Black) child alike and reinforces a Black-white binary by insisting that the pull of race is as strong among bBlack characters as among white. The film thus envisions heredity and belonging as inherently racialized, and racial segregation appears as an unconscious natural mandate.” Heide Fehrenbach (2007).Toxi and the Story of Race after Nazism. Princenton University Press.

“The trajectory of Elfie Fiegert‘s career— as well as the narrative structures of Toxi and Der dunkle Stern - are part of the as yet unwritten history of the cultural devolution of Nazi-era racial ideologies. The 1950s was an extended moment when the issue of “race” and its postwar meanings were explicitly addressed and performed for West Germans. But this was accomplished by shifting the location of “race” from Jewishness to Blackness in order to distance it from the Holocaust and German’s crimes against humanity (which, after all, were still on trial in these postwar decades). This displacement rendered the issue one of juvenile stewardship and German control, and thus facilitated the articulation of a liberalized discourse of “race” as proof of West Germany’s successful racial reeducation and rehabilitation." Heide Fehrenbach (2005). Narrating „Race“ in 1950’s West Germany. The Phenomenon of the Toxi Films. In: Mayzón, Patricia;
Steingröver, Reinhild (Hg.). Not So Plain As Black And White. Afro-German Culture and History, 1890-2000. Rochester, New York: University of Rochester Press.

“By the time that Black German children reached puberty, these earlier discussions were muted, and “race” was on its way to becoming a taboo topic.This resulted in a silencing of public discussions regarding the role of “race” in German society and identity. What is more, it
authorized a cultural atmosphere of “racial” exclusivity in defining the nation. […] However, membership in the nation was culturally imagined (and until a few years ago, to a large extent legally prescribed) as the more exclusive domain of homogenous whiteness. This has left little space—social or psychological—for German Citizens of Color who, to borrow from W. E. B. DuBois, daily feel the “doubleness” of their lives as Blacks and Germans in a hostile, or at best, indifferent society that is their own.” Heide Fehrenbach (2005).Narrating „Race“ in 1950’s West Germany. The Phenomenon of the Toxi Films. In: Mayzón, Patricia; Steingröver, Reinhild (Hg.). Not So Plain As Black And White. Afro-German Culture and History, 1890-2000. Rochester, New York: University of Rochester Press.

“There probably is no other popular film in the post-war German film history before Fassbinder which so explicitly and centrally tackles non-white representations as does Toxi by Robert A. Stemmle.” Yara-Colette Lemke Muniz de Faria(2002). Zwischen Fürsorge und Ausgrenzung. Afrodeutsche „Besatzungskinder“ im Nachkriegsdeutschland, Metropol-Verlag Berlin..

”After the end of the National Socialist „Rassenstaat” (Racial State)
the offensive racism of the “Third Reich” disappeared from the screens, but not the conception, that Germany is a white nation. This became very obvious in the public debate about the Occupation Children” of African American fathers and white mothers. With the film Toxi, produced in 1952 exactly coinciding with the school enrolment of this first Afro-German generation, the producers ostensibly sought to provoke sympathy and understanding for these children. By portraying the existence of Black Germans exclusively as a “problem”, at the same time suppressing or displacing the Nazi past and pathologizing the mothers, the film de facto reproduced homogenizing conceptions of Whiteness.” Tobias Nagl in: Schwarze Deutsche, deutsches Kino. www.cybernomads.net

“Director Robert A. Stemmle effectively details the prejudices existing in Germany against mixed marriages, as well as against the children produced by these partnerships. In a series of extremely well scripted scenes, various German positions on “race” and racism are discussed with remarkable honesty and candor.” Madeleine Bernstorff
(downloaded from http://www.projektmigration.de/content/fi-syn02.htm,
A film program curated by Madeleine Bernstorff)

Heide Fehrenbach (2007).Toxi and the Story of Race after Nazism. Princenton University Press.
http://www.amazon.com/Race-after-Hitler-Occupation-Children/dp/0691133794

Angelica Fenner (2011). Race under Reconstruction in German Cinema: Robert Stemmle's Toxi
http://www.amazon.com/Race-under-Reconstruction-German Cinema/dp/1442640081

Synopsis Yellow Fever (short, 7min)
The ideal of fair skin tempts many girls and women in Africa to make painful attempts to change their appearance. This film the condition of feeling insufficient in an exciting mix of collage, animation and dance, ingeniously addressing the racist causes of this feeling of inferiority and their reinforcement by today’s mass media .Through memories and interviews, Yellow Fever reflects on the effect globalization is having on the African woman's understanding of beauty.

Awards

  • 3rd place, Afrinolly Short Film Competition, 2014
  • Silver Hugo for Best Animated Short,  49th Chicago International Film Festival, 2013
  • Best Animation, This Is England Film Festival, France
  • Best Student Film, Underexposed Film Festival, USA
  • Special Mention, 59th Internationale Oberhausen Kurzfilmtage, Germany, 2013
  • Best Short Film, Africa Magic Viewers' Choice Awards, Nigeria, 2013
  • Best Animation Kenya International Film Festival
  • Best Short, AfryKamera, Warsaw, Poland, 2014


African Perspectives is supported by Goethe-Centre/NaDS, Turipambwe Design, and AfriCine.

© Copyright AfricAvenir 2014

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